Ah yes, it’s Monday again (for a few more hours at least), which means it’s time for Make-Up-Monday! I didn’t receive a story submission for this week. So, will this work?
Ok, no, not really.
In the absence of a Make-Up-Monday story I thought I might share a helpful communication tool…since it’s quite possible that instead of submitting your make up stories you might be sitting around with unresolved conflict just WAITING for the opportunity to work through it and THEN you’ll submit your story for Make-Up-Monday, right?
Early in our short engagement we were introduced to the Speaker-Listener Technique, from the book A Lasting Promise by Stanley, Trathen, McCain and Bryan. We learned this technique at the pre-marital class at our church. And it came in handy in those early months as we tried to work through big and small conflicts.
Speaker-Listener Technique is about taking turns speaking and listening in order to truly hear each other; it helps both of you communicate better in order to get to the heart of a conflict. I’ve said it before, men and women speak different languages. Therefore we hear in different languages, too. That means it might take several tries to understand what your spouse is communicating to you.
Here are the basics of Speaker-Listener:
The Speaker has the floor. He/she should use “I” statements to communicate feelings or beliefs about the issue at hand. Statements should be brief. After 2-3 sentences (or fewer if necessary) the Speaker stops speaking and allows the Listener to paraphrase.
The Listener paraphrases what he/she heard the Speaker say. No rebuttals are allowed. Do not answer, instead say what you heard. Avoid being defensive. Your goal is to listen for understanding.
The Speaker has the floor until he/she is satisfied with the Listener’s paraphrase.
Then, roles switch, and the Listener becomes the Speaker, following the guidelines previously mentioned.
In our experience using this technique, there can be several “rounds” as the discussion ensues, especially if there has been a long build-up of issues leading to this conflict. It’s best to tackle only one topic at a time.
There’s more to it, but let’s check out an example of what this looks like:
Wife as Speaker: “I feel hurt when you don’t come home from work on time. I’ve worked a long day too and if you aren’t here when you say you’ll be here, I feel upset.”
Husband as Listener: “So, it hurts you when I don’t come home on time because you work a long day too.”
Wife as Speaker: “Yes. And it’s important to me that you are home when you say you will be. I try to have dinner ready at a specific time, but if you’re not here, it gets cold or even over cooked.”
Husband as Listener: “You work hard to have dinner ready on time, and you’d like it if I told you what time I was planning to come home and then followed through on it.”
Wife as Speaker: “Yes, and it hurts my feelings when you don’t come home on time because it messes up what I’ve planned for dinner.”
Husband as Listener: “It upsets you when I don’t come home on time because it messes up your plans for our meal.”
Wife as Speaker: “Yes, that’s right.” [She hands over the floor to the Husband.]
Husband as Speaker: “I work hard to provide for our family. My job is important and sometimes I have to work late. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you or don’t want to be home with you.”
Wife as Listener: “It’s important to you to provide for our family and sometimes you have to work late. Just because you aren’t home in time for dinner doesn’t mean you don’t love me.”
Husband as Speaker: “Yes, that’s right. I want to be home with you in the evening. I would rather be with you than at work.”
Wife as Listener: “You want to be home. You’d rather be with me than at work.”
Husband as Speaker: “Yes, that’s right.” [He hands over the floor to the Wife.]
This is just a simple example. If I went on, I imagine that she might figure out how tell him that their quality time is really important to her and they need to find a way get that need met if he has to work late. He might also bring out that it’s important to him to gain respect in the workplace, which sometimes might mean working late. They might need to talk about communicating expectations better or drawing boundaries in the workplace. All kinds of things could come out of this.
And while Speaker-Listener seems a little cheezy at first (and guys seem to have more trouble with believing it can work), it’s a great way to uncover what’s really going on that may have started a fight about something that seems rather benign like dinner time, emptying the dishwasher (that was ours) or taking out the trash. Click here to visit the PREP website where you can order the Speaker-Listener fridge magnet so you can keep the rules handy for when you need them.
Have you tried Speaker-Listener? If not, give it a try next time you have a chance (and you WILL) and let us know how it goes!